Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

What Your Team Expects

“Trust me is easy to say, especially when you mean it, but hard to hear.” – Seth Godin

As a result of all the changes firms have faced in the last sixteen to eighteen months, progressive firms are updating their employee handbooks. Many new and changing guidelines need to be explained and documented so that your team members know what is expected as a member of your firm’s team.

Even in your old handbook, is it possible that what you are saying contradicts what they are seeing?

Again, I am talking about setting a good example. I have learned through experience, that the partners are the ones who do not follow the documented processes and procedures that are clearly spelled out in the handbook.

People are now expecting many things to be different but they’ve been taught through experience not to believe that things are actually going to be different.

A quote from Seth Godin: “If you’ve read ten employee handbooks that say one thing when the company does another, you’re likely to not believe the eleventh one.”

Be sure to read Godin’s blog post about this topic. It is titled, Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  • Showing tends to beat telling.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Keeping It Simple

“How difficult it is to be simple.” – Vincent Van Gogh

CPA leaders working in public accounting have a bothersome skill. I have observed on many occasions that they have the ability to complicated almost anything. Maybe it is their inquisitive nature. Rather than just try something, test something to see if it works, they research, investigate, question an idea over and over and usually end up NOT trying something new.

They have high expectations for the team members but don’t often clearly (and simply) communicate them.

Here is some simple advice intended for a high school marching band as they depart on a road trip. I hope you can see how it could be used to communicate with your own team members. It also applies to your partner group.

  • You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior.
  • Gavin Newsom

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

Engage Your Employees – Don’t Lose Them

“You give loyalty, you’ll get it back. You give love, you’ll get it back.” – Tommy Lasorda

Now, more than ever, it is so important to engage your team members. As you all know, finding, hiring, and retaining people has become even more of a concern for public accounting firms.

Some firms are holding their partners accountable for engaging and retaining valued team members. Firm management is asking each partner these three questions. Leaders need followers. Many people working in public accounting say they stay with the firm because they are loyal to a particular partner. Who are those partners at your firm and why do they deserve such loyalty?

  • A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.
  • Robert Benchley

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Your Current Challenge Certainly Isn’t New

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

I’m not sure where I got the quote, below, and I don’t know if it is really true. However, it seems to me that what this person said was probably true at the time.

Finding, hiring and retaining talent professionals is at the very top of the list today. The AICPA is concerned, state societies are concerned, practitioners are concerned and HR managers are exhausted.

Here’s the quote from 1961. It kind of puts things in perspective. The current talent challenge is nothing new and CPAs have been trying to solve it for 60 years!

“The public accounting profession can, in the years just ahead, expand its role in our economy to levels never before reached… The problems of the profession in meeting the demands of the future are centered in its ability to attract and keep within its ranks qualified professional personnel.”
 —John Jones, Georgia Society Magazine – 1961

  • If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.
  • Abraham Maslow

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

Retention – A Dual Responsibility

“Just imagine how great a workplace could be if employers and employees worked together to improve retention.” – Sharlyn Lauby

We have discussed and discussed the talent wars in public accounting for years. I couldn’t imagine how it could get much worse. But it has.

Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender), in a recent article, acknowledges that retention is on the shoulders of the employer. However, employees should also share in the retention efforts.

“Organizations are unable to put retention strategies in place if they don’t understand what employees want (i.e. what makes them stay with the company). Some of you might be saying that this means the obligation is on the employer. True – but the employee has to give them the information. That’s where the employee plays a part in retention.”

Firm leaders cannot provide what employees want unless employees provide honest feedback. As a person working in a CPA firm do you provide honest feedback when asked? The main reason employees don’t give honest feedback is the fear of retaliation .

Read Lauby’s article to learn about the three basic employee needs:

Power needs are the ability to influence.

Affiliation needs are related to being a part of the team.

Achievement needs are focused on the ability to get things done.

If you wonder why your team members do not provide feedback, ask yourself – Do our employees feel safe giving feedback? Have we always acted upon feedback received in the past.

  • Organizations need to figure out if culture is keeping employees from providing the feedback you’re looking for.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Knowing The Whole Story

“Fortunate is he who understands the cause of things.” – Virgil

When I read the above quotation in a book I am reading (The Pioneers by David McCullough), I was reminded how CPA firm leaders often misunderstand or are in the dark about “the cause of things.”

If you are working in a CPA firm, you know that the grapevine is usually very active. For example:

  • Three partners meet in one of their offices with the door closed. The grapevine activates.
  • A senior accountant is unusually dressed-up for the day and leaves early. The grapevine activates.
  • An intern claims he is sick two Mondays in a row. The grapevine activates.

Leaders are often faced with challenges that seem straight-forward and uncomplicated. Do you really know the backstory – what led up to the event?

A person gives their notice and seems untroubled and apparently moving on to a better opportunity. Do you know what led up to the departure, the cause?

Sally, the receptionist, is always late. You must address it. Do you know the cause, the backstory?

Are you doing surveys to determine how your people feel about remote work or hybrid work? Some firms are experiencing several resignations (people moving on the what they think are better jobs). Remember, “Fortunate is he who knows the cause of things.”

  • They can because they think they can.
  • Virgil

Monday, June 21st, 2021

The Great Resignation

“Your employer brand is your external experience, and your talent brand is the internal experience.” – Cassie Whitlock

Has your accounting firm started to experience the resignation crisis? It is happening to employers now and the prediction is that it will continue.

Last week, I wrote about how the talent pool for CPAs will be shrinking. Now, it seems, you will be facing the fact that your people can work for a firm, no matter where that firm is located. Firms in large cities are willing to pay large city salaries to remote staff that live in more affordable localities.

Per a recent article via Fast Company, Texan A&M University Associate Management Professor Anthony Klotz coined the phrase (the great resignation) during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

The article also notes:

Employees are also seeking more rewarding work, adds Cassie Whitlock, head of human resources for the talent management software platform BambooHR. “Many have lost a sense of connection to the workplace,” she says. “Even if they’re getting time with their manager, we discovered they’re having fewer interactions, and the quality of those interactions is diminished. They’re not having a feeling of genuine connection. They feel less seen, recognized, and appreciated.”

Remember something I have written about often – people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Your managers have that first-hand contact with your staff both in person and remotely. It’s time again to help your managers to become very skilled at managing and engaging people.

Whitlock stresses something that CPA owners need to embrace:

“They (managers) spend the most time with employees, and they make or break an organization’s goals, objectives, and outcomes,” says Whitlock. “They carry the water. Invest in growing managers to make sure you have the quality and caliber you want.”

  • You need to be great at telling stories in your organization. How are you making a difference? And are you sharing those successes with team members to help them feel good about the goals and outcomes you’re driving?
  • Cassie Whitlock

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

The Talent Pool Is Shrinking

“The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it. There is a purpose for that pain; you just can’t always see it right away.” – Victoria Arlen

I received the following press release from the Illinois CPA Society. They are unveiling the findings from research they have done relating to the decline in CPA candidates. If you think finding and hiring future leaders is difficult now, just wait.

How will your firm prepare for the future? It seems that accounting students don’t see the value in devoting the time and energy to become a CPA.

My advice? Share your partners’ salaries with your future CPAs and with college students you talk to or interview. Is it worth it to become a CPA, in public accounting, when average partner compensation in $5 to $20M firms is half a million? In many larger firms, partner compensation is over $1,000,000. Plus, flexible work arrangements make public accounting very attractive.

Illinois CPA Society Releases New CPA Pipeline Report

CHICAGO, June 14, 2021– Unveiling the findings of its previously announced research into the decreasing supply of new certified public accountants (CPAs), the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS)—one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation—is pleased to release its 2021 Insight Special Feature, “A CPA Pipeline Report: Decoding the Decline.”

The result of an in-depth survey of more than 3,100 accounting students, graduates, and professionals predominantly under age 35, “Decoding the Decline” reveals respondents’ top challenges, perceptions, and influencers impacting their decisions to pursue the CPA credential or not and what, if any, value it may bring to their personal and professional lives. The eye-opening responses—particularly among non-CPAs and those who are still unsure about becoming CPAs—provide invaluable insights the CPA profession and its stakeholders cannot ignore while trying to counter the declining number of first-time CPA exam test takers—which hit a 10-year low in 2018, and further declines are expected when new data becomes available.

“Five years ago, I delivered the warning that a stagnating CPA pipeline is a threat. It’s an issue that will only get worse and grow more troubling without action. Today the issue has, in fact, grown worse and more troubling,” says Todd Shapiro, ICPAS president and CEO. “It used to be that if you earned an accounting degree, earning the CPA credential was the given next step regardless of career paths or time commitments—that’s no longer the case.”

“From this initial survey, we learned that individuals—who we believe should be future CPAs—are not pursuing the CPA credential because they feel they can succeed in their anticipated or chosen careers without it,” explains Kari Natale, CAE, ICPAS senior director of planning and governance, who led the survey’s development alongside Association Management Center, ICPAS’ research partner on the project. “They believe any value the CPA credential holds is outweighed by its lack of relevance to their personal and professional endeavors and the time commitment necessary to obtain it. They do not see the return on investment; they do not see their employers or prospective employers supporting or requiring it; and they see other credentials or specialties as being more valuable to their careers.”

Additional notable findings in “Decoding the Decline” include:

  • The costs associated either with obtaining the additional credit hours to meet the educational/licensing requirements or preparing for and taking the CPA exam were not the top barriers cited by any respondent category.
  • The likelihood of becoming a CPA drops dramatically after age 22.
  • Many respondents do not have an interest in pursuing a credential at all.
  • Accounting, auditing, and tax preparation are the words most associated with the CPA credential, further narrowing the credential’s scope and attractiveness.

“As the survey findings shared in ‘Decoding the Decline’ show, reversing the CPA credential’s downtrend will not be without its challenges,” Shapiro cautions. “The CPA credential and the CPA profession are in a race for relevance, and the time to act is now.”

Decoding the Decline” is available now in PDF and digital formats at www.icpas.org/cpapipeline, and print editions are available upon request. Both Natale and Shapiro welcome reader feedback and are available for further commentary on the factors impacting the CPA pipeline.

  • There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
  • Beverly Sils

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Are You A Firm Administrator? Are You Wondering What A Firm Administrator Does?

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss

Today, I want to remind you about a one-hour session I am doing tomorrow for the newly formed Missouri Chapter of CPAFMA and the Missouri Society of CPAs.

Are you new to the role of firm administrator? Are you an experienced administrative professional but have never worked in the CPA profession? Are you thinking about hiring a firm administrator? Do you wonder what value a firm administrator can bring to your firm?

Join me and your peers tomorrow. More information here.

  • Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
  • Leo Babauta

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Topgrading

“If we weren’t still hiring great people and pushing ahead at full speed, it would be easy to fall behind and become some mediocre company.” – Bill Gates

Have you heard of topgrading interviewing? It is something I was not aware of until I read a recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady).

Per Lucas:

The term topgrading comes from a 1997 article by Bradford D. Smart and his son, Geoffrey, called Topgrading the organization. Their definition is:

“Topgrading simply means proactively seeking out and employing the most talented people available, while redeploying (internally or externally) those of lesser ability or performance. More specifically, we view topgrading as employing only A players.”

Topgrading, to me, seems like something you would want to use when making lateral hires and so many firms are looking for experienced CPAs.

Read more about topgrading here in the article by Lucas. She gives us a 12-step process for hiring.

  • Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can’t tell you whether someone will fit into a company’s culture.
  • Howard Schulz, Chairman & CEO of Starbucks